Afghanistan is asking the U.S. government to stop deporting Afghan nationals, saying it has no repatriation agreement with the United States.
"We did not sign any such agreements with the United States of America," Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni, spokesperson for the Afghanistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the VOA Afghanistan Service. If there were such an agreement, Mostaghni said, it would have been made by the nation's Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, which he said handles all immigration issues.
"So, since they are not aware of such an agreement, I can officially confirm that we — MoFA — did not ink any deal with the U.S in this regard," Mostaghni said.
Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations adviser Hafiz Ahmad Miakhel also insisted that his government has not approved a repatriation agreement and said the ministry is asking for a halt to all deportations. "Ongoing war has been forcing people to leave Afghanistan," he said in an interview. "We are a country still at war, and our people need to be helped rather than deporting."
The European Union entered into a repatriation agreement with Afghanistan in October 2016 to pave the way for the return of failed Afghan asylum seekers. In addition, Germany, Sweden and Finland have country-to-country agreements.
When VOA asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the United States has such an agreement, spokesman Brendan Raedy provided a written response:
"International law obligates each country to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States. The United States itself routinely cooperates with foreign governments in documenting and accepting its citizens when asked, as do the majority of countries in the world."
Deportations from the U.S. were down overall in 2017, but an analysis of the data by National Public Radio shows that if the Latin American countries — which make up some 90 percent of repatriations — are not counted, deportations to the rest of the world were up by 24 percent.
"Deportations to Brazil and China jumped," NPR reported. "Removals of Somalis nearly doubled. Deportations to Ghana and West Africa are up more than two times."
Afghanistan is no exception. ICE statistics show the number of Afghans deported rose sharply last year from 14 in fiscal year 2016 to 48 in FY 2017.
"Dozens of Afghan immigrants or asylum seekers have been deported to Kabul since [U.S. President Donald] Trump took the power," Miakhel said. "In April 2017, we received a group of 21 deportees of different ages."
Miakhel said there was not much clarity about the reasons for the deportations. "We were told that some of the Afghan deportees were not qualified to seek asylum in the U.S.; some of them may have posed a threat to the U.S. national security or may have committed crimes."
The United States has an estimated 14,000 troops in Afghanistan assisting, training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces to defeat Taliban, Islamic State and other insurgent groups.
According to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, more immigrants and refugees hail from Afghanistan than any other country except Syria. Some 2.7 million Afghan immigrants and refugees are under UNCHR protection worldwide, most of them fleeing violence and insecurity.